Spinach is an incredibly satisfying crop to grow. It provides a nutrient-rich vegetable that can be added to many of your favorite dishes, from casseroles to smoothies. Not only that, when grown properly, it offers a large harvest that will allow you to keep bringing in spinach for your table. If you're interested in learning more about this rich, leafy green, you've come to the right place!
When to Sow Spinach
Spinach typically thrives when it's grown in cooler weather with short days, making it the perfect fall crop in most areas of the United States. In northern areas of the country, savvy gardeners may find that they can plant an early spring crop of spinach that will be ready to harvest before the days grow too long. Planting in early February will lead to a March harvest of spinach. In most cases, however, the best time to sow spinach is in mid to late summer to give it plenty of time to grow before time for the first freeze. Note that spinach can often survive light frost, especially if it's properly acclimated to the outside climate, so the growing season can often be extended into the late fall or even early winter months throughout parts of the southern United States. More spinach can be added approximately every ten days to ensure a crop that will keep growing long-term.
How to Plant Spinach
Spinach should be planted approximately 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart in beds or rows. If it's being grown during warmer months, spinach should be sown heavily, as it may struggle to grow in those warmer climates. In cooler areas, however, spinach will grow fairly quickly and easily. Spinach grows best in nitrogen-rich soil, so fertilizing the ground will help ensure that it will grow well. It also prefers soil that is loose and easy to grow through, so tilling at least a foot of soil will help spinach grow more effectively. If you're going to be planting an early spring crop of spinach, take the time to prepare your ground in the fall, before the soil freezes, to ensure easier planting. As your spinach grows, be careful to thin the rows so that it has the space to grow properly. In some cases, you may need to be ruthless about your thinning efforts in order to ensure that the remaining plants are able to grow freely.
The Size of Your Spinach
Spinach plants don't grow particularly tall. They need a minimum of three to five inches of space if they're grown in containers; if you're planting outdoors in a standard garden, offering 14" of space between rows will give the plants plenty of room to grow freely.
Like lettuce, spinach grows quickly! It won't take long before you'll start seeing plants that are able to fill out your rows. Often, within six to eight weeks, you'll start seeing spinach plants that are big enough to be harvested. Five or six good leaves on a plant are all you need to start picking your spinach and bringing it to your table. When it comes to harvesting, you have two choices: harvest the entire plant all at once, or pick the larger leaves from the outside, leaving the smaller ones to develop a little longer. Spinach should be harvested quickly when it reaches your desired size; letting the leaves get too big will result in a bitter taste that will negatively impact your dishes. If your spinach plants are starting to bud, it's time to harvest the plant, since this process often leads to bitter leaves.
Pests and Problems
Since it's grown during the cooler months of the year, spinach may have fewer problems with pests than other crops. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it's completely free from trouble! Make sure you're watching out for these common issues when growing your spinach crop.
- Aphids are particularly fond of spinach. They can be knocked off with a high pressure wash, but if they become a bigger problem, using an organic spray can help reduce the amount of bugs on your spinach without causing health problems. Check with your local markets to discover which sprays are the best for your area.
- Caterpillars can often be found in spinach patches. Biological worm sprays can help remove them without causing bigger problems.
- White rust can quickly appear on your spinach plants due to the cool conditions in which it's grown. Make sure you remove any impacted leaves quickly to help prevent it from spreading to the rest of the crop. If you have a large-scale infection, check with local growers to discover the best way to help treat it.
- Blue mold is often commonly found on spinach plants due to the cool, moist conditions it prefers. Like white rust, the first line of treatment is to simply remove the impacted leaves, especially if the condition is relatively mild.
Different Types of Spinach
There are several different varieties of spinach, though extensive cross-breeding has made it difficult to categorize specific types of spinach easily. Small leafed spinach, or baby spinach, has become increasingly common among many gardeners due to its slightly sweeter taste. Baby spinach is not made of immature spinach leaves; rather, these leaves simply do not grow larger. Spinach also comes in both smooth- and rough-leafed categories. There are also several varieties of spinach which are designed to grow in warmer climates, which may be a great option for areas that don't have a distinct cooler season.
Growing spinach is relatively easy--including growing spinach in pots indoors! In order to care for it properly, however, a few key tips can help.
- Avoid over fertilizing. Add fertilizer to your spinach only if necessary for slow growth or other problems.
- Spinach is a difficult plant to transplant, since it has fragile roots that are easily damaged. Instead of starting crops indoors and transplanting, plan to start your crop outdoors.
- Water spinach regularly to help keep soil cool and moist, its ideal growing environment.
- Spinach is fairly cold-hardy and can survive a light freeze. If a harder freeze does show up unexpectedly before the end of spinach's growing season, you can cover your plants to help increase their odds of survival.
Uses for Spinach
Spinach is an incredibly popular vegetable due to its mild taste and high nutritional content. As a leafy green vegetable, it offers Vitamins B6, K, C, A, and more. It offers a wide range of nutritional benefits--and it's both low calorie and high in fiber, which make it a favorite among dieters and others concerned with their caloric intake. Spinach is often found in smoothies and casseroles, which help hide its sometimes bitter flavor or a slimier texture. It's popular eaten raw in salads. While some people might not like the slightly slimy texture of cooked spinach, others find that it is delicious when cooked on its own, especially when added to dips or other dishes.